Local religious leaders weighing outdoor services

MARYLAND – As Maryland makes its way towards reopening the state, outdoor religious gatherings might become the new normal. Those gatherings were included in Governor Larry Hogan’s plans for phase one, some religious leaders say they aren’t sure they’ll take advantage of this new option. “We have a big lot that’s between our church building and our neighboring church building, and we could figure that out, but it just doesn’t seem being neighborly,” said Pastor Martin Hutchison of Community of Joy in Salisbury.

Pastor Hutchison of Salisbury’s Community of Joy tells 47ABC that his congregation probably won’t be doing outdoor events. “We have neighbors. To think that we can go and set up sound systems and intrude on neighbors really isn’t something that’s in our core values,” said Pastor Hutchison.

The pastor says that using Zoom to hold services has helped him to stay connected with his congregation. “For us it’s not about the production. It’s about connection. It’s about relationships, and so Zoom has allowed us to check in with each other, to chat, to connect,” said the pastor. Pastor Hutchison says that although he misses the live music and personal interactions, he’s still helping with community outreach. The pastor has been busy serving meals to those in need and working on the community garden in Salisbury.

At Temple Bat Yam in Berlin, Rabbi Estelle Mills says the temple’s board is working on deciding if outdoor services would be an option for their congregation, but Zoom has still been very helpful. “We’re getting more and more proficient each week. More and more people are joining each week as they figure out how to use it,” said Rabbi Mills.

Rabbi Mills says until a decision is made, the congregation is finding other ways to stay connected. “We’re calling. We’ve divided the membership into groups and have congregates who have volunteered to call them weekly or every other week. So we’re keeping in touch with our whole membership through phone calls as well,” said Rabbi Mills.

Rabbi Mills also tells 47ABC that using Zoom is helping people to connect with the temple, when they might not have been able to before.  “I think we’ll be able to have some options where people at home can see the service. It’s been wonderful for elderly congregates and those who are home bound to be able to join,” said the rabbi. Rabbis Mills says she also took part in an interfaith service on Zoom on the national day of prayer last week.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, Maryland